The day after witnessing the snowstorm and its aftermath in Vancouver, I decided to do a roadtrip to Whistler , the famous mountain ski resort, about 100 kms north.
Hiring a car
Obviously, the unforeseen snowstorm the day before left me seeking for winter tires, as driving on the snow was going to be taxing not to mention risky. I finally got a Toyota Camry with winter tires from Hertz, but had to pay about 20 CAD per day for that addition. The additional adherence was worth every penny, as I was going to experience on my way to Whistler the day after.
Being a sedan, the car had much more stability in curves than a SUV, so most of the times, I was able to keep a decent speed on the highways (but I was obviously slower than most drivers). Nevertheless, I also saw an accident on the highway between Squamish and Whistler, where a car had gone into the ditch (fortunately only minor injuries).
Roadtrip to Whistler
Whistler knew fame when a group of businessmen decided to develop this retired corner of British Columbia, in order to prepare a bid for the Olympic games of 1968. Since then, it has become a quite trendy (and expensive!) ski resort, where many tourists or rich Canadians go to enjoy skiing. As such, the roads leading to Whistler can become quite tough to drive in winter. In fact, between Squamish and Whistler, it generally is required to have chains or winter tires, since the winter conditions can be quite tough. While the temperatures were above zero, it was still snowing in places.
And tough they were that day. Indeed, while still above zero, the road was wet and it was still snowing in places. The snowy country side was however every bit as magical as you could imagine it to be.
The beauty of Canadians is that they don’t let snow deter them from their daily jogging…
The ski slopes were quite busy that day!
All in all, it had all the workings of a modern ski station, with elevators to take skiers up on the slopes. The less nice side was some quite loud and noisy bars at the bottom of the slopes.
Wilderness in Canada?
Having seen a ski slope, you might think again about experiencing Canada as a place teeming with wildlife and where wilderness is just a few steps away. That is true for the more remote regions. But wherever human beings have built roads, in general, the land belongs to someone. That’s how, while visiting Whistler on foot, I noticed that about every acre of land was covered with property, cordoned off and locked off from trespassing.
Hence, while trying to reach Lake Alta, google maps offered me a route via… private land! In the end, after going back to my car, I finally drove to a point near lake Neeta, but it is telling how a lot of the land has been appropriated in the area by subdivisions.
As a counterpoint, the multiple boards warning against bears do offer a precious reminder that you are indeed in a wild country.
Whistler train station
Near Lake Neeta, you can find the Whistler train station. A very beautifully built station, visiting it is an exercise in surrealism. It is a station which receives trains infrequently, and in the meantime, it hosts a yoga salon as well as a spa (!). From there, you just have to take a few steps along the path to come across lake Neeta (totally frozen at this time of the year).
The whole area gives a very romantic and eery feeling, where you feel are you somewhere between Finland and Russia.
I grabbed the occasion to have my lunch at “The Fix”, a local restaurant with a somewhat organic positioning.
On the way back, I wanted absolutely to take a picture of the lovely views on the coast with the fjords of British Columbia. I thus stopped near Furry Creek, and took out my drone to shoot some pictures of the lovely scenery. With the setting sun, the looks became just gorgeous.
It must be mentioned that since 2016, the Canadian laws regarding the use of recreational drones have been pretty draconian, making it basically impossible to shoot within the city. Within Vancouver itself, most of the region is within 9 kms of any airport (Canada Place, itself, is just neighboring a takeoff area for seaplanes. My only possibility was thus of taking the drone outside of town, and namely trying a quick flight near Furry Creek. As a risk mitigating factor, I did not push my Mavic Pro above the tree canopy.
Similarly, the view on the mountains behind was just as lovely.
Going back to the hotel from there was a piece of cake, although I had to contend with the evening traffic.
I still went out to get a blue hour shot of the Vancouver Art Gallery, which was hosting an exposition by the Japanese artist, Murakami. I have my own reservations on “modern art”, but you must say that the museum did all they could to promote the artist.
That being done, it was time to head back to the Wedgewood Hotel and Spa, to enjoy some cookies and tea for the turn-down.
It must be mentioned that, previously, on the first day of arrival, they even offered some chocos!